Psalms Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 41, Have Mercy on Me


Psalm 41 closes the first book of the psalms and is penned by David. As we have noted in the previous few psalms, Psalms 38, 39, and 40 all seem to be written during the same time of circumstances in David’s life. All of these psalms describing bearing punishment from the Lord for personal sins committed. Psalm 41 continues this theme as seen in verse 4, “I said, ‘O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.'”

As we read this psalm, David will describe for us more actions we need to take when we find ourselves in sin. After describing more actions required of us by the Lord, David will then describe the confidence we can have, though sinners, in the presence of the Lord.

I. Blessed Is the One Who Has Regard For the Weak (41:1-3)

A. The commands of God

  1. In his sorrowful state of being punished for sins, David describes the character of the one who is blessed. David begins this psalm by instructing the worshippers to think about others in the time of trouble. “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak.”
  2. What a fascinating statement to make in the midst of the suffering David is enduring! How often we forget to look to the needs of others when we are in the midst of suffering! It is rare for us to not dwell upon our own difficulties. David tells us to have regard for the weak and care for them.
  3. I hope we can see why this is useful for us. Becoming centered upon our own problems and suffering only continues to plunge us into deeper depression and self-pity. Too often we participate in what I call “one-upping.” If you say you have been suffering, I have a story to show you I have it worse. Something happened to you, then you need to hear about what happened to me. Rather than having regard for the weak, we try to tell them that we have it worse than they do. Instead of making people look to us, we need to listen and help those who are in times of trouble.

B. The rewards of God

  1. David expresses the numerous rewards the Lord gives to those who show this concern for the weak. Notice the six acts of God toward those who have regard for the weak: (1) delivered, (2) protected/preserved, (3) blessed, (4) not abandoned, (5) sustained, and (6) restored.
  2. These are words of great confidence and remind that God is always with us when we are serving the Lord. Even when the times are extremely dire, David expresses a continued hope in the Lord despite the circumstances. Notice David’s words in verse 3, “The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.” The scriptures record many instances of people whose continued faith in the Lord was answered by God that they could overcome those dire circumstances. Hezekiah prayed concerning his fatal illness and was healed. Daniel and his three friends were delivered from their ordeals of the lion’s den and the fiery furnace. Esther and the Jewish people were delivered by God. We have a song “Our God Is Able To Deliver Thee.”
  3. 2 Peter 2:5-9 is our confidence that God can deliver us. After counting the deliverance of Noah from the flood and Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God makes us this promise: “So the Lord knows how to save those who serve him when troubles come” (2 Peter 2:9). We must have a confidence that God can deliver us through any circumstance, just as we see this kind of faith in the heroes of the scriptures.

II. God Shows Mercy (41:4-10)

A. David’s torment

  1. David describes how bad it is in his life at this moment. David declares that the enemies speak about him in malice, hoping for the day he dies. Others come to him and speak falsely, slandering his reputation. All of his enemies whisper against him, imagining the worst for him. They say that David will never recover from the disease he has. Even his close friends, those whom he trusted, have betrayed him.
  2. What a terrible situation to be found in! Everyone seems to be against David. Many are slandering him and speaking lies about him. Everyone wants to see the worst happen against him. Worst yet, even those in whom he trust and befriended have turned against him. In the midst of all of this turmoil, David calls out to God for mercy (vs. 4,10).

B. New Testament fulfillment

  1. Perhaps you recall that you have read these words in the New Testament as well. Understanding the difficult circumstances of David brings to light the quotation used concerning Judas toward Jesus. “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'” In verse 26 Jesus reveals that Judas is the one who has lifted his heel against Jesus.
  2. Now when we read these words in John 13:18 we have a much better understanding of what Jesus means when he says these words. Now we see why the disciples are shocked and want to know who is the one who has lifted his heel against Jesus. But this quotation draws from the scene of David’s life in psalm 41.
  3. The whole quotation is “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” We probably have underemphasized the significance of Judas betraying Jesus. We typically think of Judas as a rogue apostle that no one liked who was an outcast from the beginning. But the prophecy shows that Jesus and Judas were close, as we would expect all of the twelve to be extremely close friends with Jesus. Further, David’s words also predict the way Jesus would show who was the betrayer by sharing bread in the final meal with the twelve.
  4. Further, as we reread this prophecy looking through the lens of messianic foretelling, we are able to truly see the circumstances of Jesus’ life just before his arrest and death. There is no doubt David is speaking of himself in this psalm as he describes that he has sinned. This certainly cannot be applied to Jesus. But the circumstances are very similar as we read about the enemies desiring Jesus’ death and conspiring to kill him. Then, to reveal that the one who would bring about Jesus’ death was a close friend, one of the chosen apostles, is a stunning revelation to the apostles.
  5. But verse 10 seems to be almost certainly messianic. “But you, O Lord, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them.” As I originally read this verse, it did not seem to make any sense. We have repeatedly noticed how David always relied upon God to repay his enemies. This verse, however, suggests that David himself wants to repay his enemies, unless this is also part of the messianic prophecy. In view of Christ, a day before his death, Jesus prays for mercy, to be raised up, and to repay his enemies. This repayment was repeated on numerous occasions to those who were putting him to death. Mark 14:62 records one instance: “‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'” Speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said: “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).

III. “You Are Pleased With Me” (41:11-13)

A. David’s great confidence

  1. “I know that you are pleased with me.” I am encouraged by these words. In the midst of David’s suffering, with his enemies who desire his death, David is able to realize that God is still with him and pleased with him. David says that he is in the presence of the Lord. We have to maintain our faith and confidence despite the circumstances we face in life.
  2. Too often life’s trials cause us to doubt the existence of God, the favor of God, or the love of God toward us. I recently had a conversation with someone who claimed they had lost their faith in God because of the difficult circumstances the person was facing. In fact, the person had no trouble saying that God was to blame.
  3. But how can we think in such ways? Do we really think that God does not care about us any more. Do we really think that God has decided to turn his back on us now, after already giving his Son for our sins to save our souls? The idea does not make any sense, yet how often men and women buy into these lies of Satan.

B. Praise be to the Lord

  1. Rather than not believing and trusting in God, we need to continue praising God, as David does despite his suffering. Job leaves us an excellent example of living a life of integrity. For God to be pleased with us, we must also live lives filled with integrity even during our darkest times. Satan is attempting to strip us away from God. We cannot allow Satan to win.
  2. God is watching to see how we deal with the tribulations of life. It is easy to serve when God seems to be acting favorably toward us. The great challenge of life is to maintain our faith in the midst of great despair. Yet this was Job’s test. This was David’s test. This is our test.
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